Did you know? 45% of B2B marketers reported using social media to drive inbound search performance.

Mar 21, 2012

Millennials are making B2B buying decisions. Are you engaged with them?

In a previous blog – Millennials are making B2B buying decisions. Are you ready to communicate with them? – I shared that this cohort is moving into management positions and are shaping business decisions. I suggested three attributes – tech-savvy, highly educated, and a passion for meaning in their work – that B2B marketers need to pay attention to if they want to communicate effectively with them. With this post, I’d like to give you a few more behavioral aspects that will likely influence how they make buying decisions and what you need to know so that you can engage with them.

But first and briefly, if you if don’t know who they are, the Millennials are a 50 million person cohort who were born between 1980 and 1999. For some time they have been the interest of consumer marketers because they are about the size of the Baby Boomer generation. They become more and more significant to B2B marketers as the oldest of them reach their late 20s and early 30s and they begin to take decision-making positions. They now take on an influential role on buying teams that will make decisions about doing business with you, including recommending, specifying and buying your products and services. This brings me to the two new characteristics I want to share.

These new findings are from a study entitled “American Millennials: Deciphering the Enigma Generation” from Barkley, the Service Management Group and the Boston Consulting Group. Although the study focused on personal behavior, we know that this group blends their personal life and business life, and we can draw some conclusions about how these attributes might influence their business-buying behavior.

From the study we learn that when Millennials shop they like to do so in groups, seeking peer affirmation and advice about where to shop and what to buy. Since they like to shop in groups, they should feel very comfortable being part of a buying team and the group decision-making process that is an integral part of the B2B purchasing dynamic. To me, the more interesting finding is that Millennials like peer affirmation and advice on potential vendors and products.

Where do you think they will confer with their peers? Mostly likely this tech-savvy, constantly connected group will look to social media networks. They will start with the givens – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. – but will find more success with LinkedIn and LinkedIn groups. If they explore even further, they will find nuanced social media networks, communities and forums addressing their specific industries and markets, as well as the kinds of products they are buying. Republished from an earlier post “Lessons from the Arab Spring”, here are some examples of B2B social media where Millennials will find the advice and affirmation they are seeking:

Electrician Talk focusing on the electrical contractor

Contractor Talk forums and blogs for the construction trades

Heating Help community for hydronic system contractors

HVAC-Talk forum for HVAC contractors

Plumbing Zone a community for plumbers

The Inspector’s Journal forums for home inspectors

CR4 covers overall engineering

Element 14 caters to design engineers

Mendeley a research reference manager and academic social network

MyNetResearch networking site for global research

ResearchCrossroads project showcase for funding and collaborators

ResearchGate social networking site for scientists and engineers to discover share research

Vivo connects researchers between participating universities and institutions

LabRoots networking and collaboration site for scientists, engineers and technical professionals

Follow the links to visit any of these networks. Surprised by what you see? The conversations are work-related and very robust. Community members talk about projects, products, brands and companies. Sometimes the conversation is favorable, sometimes it is not. If you haven’t already identified the social media that your targeted buyers are using, now is the time to do so. A social media audit will give you a better understanding of where the conversations are being held and will improve your ability to engage and connect with the Millennial B2B buyer.

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  • March 28, 2012 (10:33 AM EST)
    Nick Stamoulis writes:
    Millenials are big users of social media. B2Bs often think that social media is for B2Cs, but B2B decision makers are consumers too- aren't they? It's important to figure out which networks are the most appropriate to your target audience and focus your efforts there.
  • April 12, 2012 (3:21 PM EST)
    Ken Jones writes:
    This is an intriguing subject to follow.

    I'd like to find some stats to support the notion that millennials are in fact moving into these positions.

    I understand from a co-worker that there was a panel discussion at SXSW entitled along the lines of Social Media the B2B marketing underground. I am looking for a transcript or recording to see what was said.
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